Arlington is gearing up to extend its bus rapid transit system to better connect Crystal City to Pentagon City, and county officials are inviting people to learn more about the project at a meeting tonight (Thursday).
The county is holding an open house to show off details of the planned Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway extension, running from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Crystal City Shops (2100 Crystal Drive).
The Transitway currently operates between the Crystal City Metro station and the Braddock Road station in Alexandria, with dedicated bus lanes and stations covering about 4.5 miles in all. The expansion would add another .75 miles to the route, linking the Pentagon City Metro to the Crystal City stop.
The $27.7 million project is part of ongoing efforts to better connect the two neighborhoods, and the county recently earned millions in regional transportation funding to make it possible. The effort will involve the construction of seven new bus stations by the time it’s wrapped up.
It also includes new dedicated bus lanes set for the following streets, per the county’s website:
- Crystal Drive from 15th Street S. to 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive (Includes curbside rush hour bus lanes and two stations, one on northbound Crystal Drive at 15th Street S., and one on westbound 12th Street S. at Long Bridge Drive).
- 12th Street S. from Long Bridge Drive to S. Hayes Street (Includes exclusive bus lanes in the median, mixed traffic lanes, traffic signal upgrades, signage and pavement markings and three stations: east and westbound 12th Street S. at Elm Street, and eastbound 12th Street S. at S. Hayes Street)
- S. Hayes Street from 12th Street S. to Army Navy Drive (This segment will connect to WMATA’s planned Pentagon City Center bus bays project on Army Navy Drive)
The Crystal Drive segment is currently the farthest along, with transportation planners currently in design discussions for the effort. The county is still in more conceptual discussions about the other two segments.
Work at a new Potomac Yard apartment building set to include a new church is well underway.
The County Board approved the addition of a church to the first and second floors of the 12-story residential building in 2015. The building was originally approved in 2007 but went unbuilt for some time.
Now, however, the site between Jefferson Davis Highway, 33rd Street S., 35th Street S. and S. Ball Street has been cleared by construction crews, with foundations set to be lain soon.
The new church — known previously as the “Meetinghouse of Worship” — is planned for a portion of the first and second floors of the building. It will be occupy 23,906 square feet of space, with a 300-seat sanctuary, classrooms, administrative offices and a multipurpose room on the first and second floors.
The church will be on the left side of the building, next to 33rd Street S., while on the right side of the building, the apartment complex will have a lobby and retail space.
The apartment complex is set to have 342 units, having added 11 with the church’s approval. A brochure on the building by architects DCS Design touts its “ground floor retail, rooftop pool and a private exercise facility,” and its proximity to public transit options.
The building will be close to a Crystal City-Potomac Yard transitway stop on Crystal Drive, parallel to Route 1.
Representatives with developer The Praedium Group did not respond to requests for comment on a timeline for construction, or further details on the church that will move in.
Metroway operates between the Braddock Road and Pentagon City Metro stations via U.S. Route 1 through Potomac Yard and Crystal Drive in Crystal City. It opened last April after collaboration with the City of Alexandria but ran into construction delays and cost challenges.
According to statistics provided by the county’s department of environmental services, there have been an average of 3,805 boardings and disembarkings at all stations in Arlington every weekday.
County staff said there have been an average of 474 weekday boardings and disembarkings at the S. Glebe Road station, just north of Arlington’s border with Alexandria. The station has the most riders in Arlington by that metric.
County staff estimate that riders starting their journeys at S. Glebe Road saved two-and-a-half minutes on their journeys with the dedicated bus lanes, compared to when they rode the Metrobus’ 9S service, which was replaced.
Designs for the project to improve 12th Street S. in Crystal City are coming together, and now the public can take a look themselves.
The “Ask the Project Team” event for the Complete Street project between Clark and Eads streets is scheduled to take place on Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. at The Connection pop-up library at 2100 Crystal Drive. The designs are 30 percent complete, so this event means residents can provide feedback on any major concerns in the plans.
The project will help create dedicated bus lanes for the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway in that section of 12th Street S. — the same stretch in which a commuter bus crashed into an apartment building last week — as well as provide pedestrian improvements.
It will add two-way bicycle lanes under the Route 1 bridge, which will link a future two-way bicycle track on Army Navy Drive to a planned two-way bike lane along S. Bell Street heading toward the Crystal City Metro station. Those new bicycle facilities will then link to Long Bridge Drive.
The design will also include improved landscaping, sidewalks, pedestrian ramps and streetlights, as well as new north/south crosswalks at Army Navy Drive. It is adjacent to the 12th Street S. extension project from S. Eads Street to S. Fern Street in Pentagon City.
After the meeting, the project display boards will remain at the library for public viewing until April 15.
Local Schools Rank High in Challenge Index — One Arlington high school and one high school program cracked the top 10 of the Washington Post’s local 2016 Challenge Index. Washington-Lee High School ranked No. 4 and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program ranked No. 7. The two other Arlington high schools — Yorktown and Wakefield — ranked No. 11 and 82 respectively. [Washington Post, Washington Post]
Larger Fire Station 8 Possible at Current Site — Arlington County is changing its tune when it comes to Fire Station 8. The county now says that it is possible to build a larger fire station on the current Fire Station 8 site. Before, the county had said the fire station would likely have to be relocated in order to build a larger, four-bay station. [InsideNova]
More on Crystal City BRT — The new Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, the region’s first bus rapid transit system, officially opened Sunday with the opening of the Crystal City portion of the busway. The transitway features bus-only lanes and stations with “substantial arched roofs and attractive wall panels.” [Greater Greater Washington]
More on Michael Wardian’s Marathon — Arlington resident and prolific marathoner Michael Wardian ran the Boston Marathon in 2:31:39 yesterday. It turns out he did so while wearing a GoPro camera. Having completed Boston, Wardian is planning to run the London Marathon on Sunday. [Hartford Courant]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Transit Displays Installed in Crystal City — Real time transit data displays are being installed around Crystal City as part of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway project. The signs display bus arrival data and have text-to-speech capability for the seeing impaired. [Twitter]
Valentines Day Cards for Bus Drivers — Arlington Public Schools students are being encouraged to give their school bus drivers Valentines Day cards this week. [Twitter]
Stratford Anniversary Memories — Participants in the integration of Arlington’s Stratford Junior High School in 1958 recalled memories of the event during an anniversary celebration last week. “None of the four 12-year-olds then realized the national significance of their action,” writes Charlie Clark. “They viewed it like a day job, after which they returned to real friends on the neighborhood playground.” [Falls Church News-Press]
ACFD: Bring Pets Inside — Given this weekend’s bitter cold forecasted temperatures, the Arlington County Fire Department is reminding residents to “make sure to bring our four-legged friends inside.” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by John Williams
That’s the message from County Manager Mark Schwartz, who spoke at a County Board meeting yesterday afternoon.
More than a year in the making, since the Nov. 2014 cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar project, the new transit plan for Columbia Pike will include bus service that’s “fast, frequent, reliable, easy to use, comfortable,” Schwartz said.
“Staff has identified several features that could be part of premium bus service on the Pike that would be similar to the Metroway service already operating in Crystal City,” Schwartz told the Board. “We are looking at near-level boarding platforms, traffic signal priority for buses, and the possibility of creating locations with dedicated bus lanes, along with other innovations.”
Near-level boarding, as depicted in the photo above, makes for faster boarding and shorter stops. The infrastructure to allow it is in the works, as Arlington County already has a plan to build 23 new, enhanced transit stations along Columbia Pike. The stations are expected to cost about 40 percent less than the infamous $1 million “Super Stop” prototype at the corner of the Pike and Walter Reed Drive.
Other considerations to make bus service faster include include off-board fare collection — so riders can pay for their fare before the bus arrives — and traffic signal prioritization, which would allow green lights to stay green until a bus passes.
More frequent service and simpler route structures — including limited stop and express service — are also being considered, as are new connections to Crystal City and the Skyline section of Fairfax County. The new service would be provided by specially “branded” buses with “comfortable and attractive amenities.”
Though it would require state approval and potentially costly acquisition of Right-of-Way, dedicated bus lanes are currently being studied by county planners.
One of the most lethal criticisms of the streetcar plan was that it would operate in mixed traffic without dedicated lanes. The county is studying the possibility of dedicated lanes for at least portions of the Pike — potentially allowing buses to make stops without blocking a lane of car traffic, for instance.
Dedicated lanes are part of the Metroway Bus Rapid Transit service that’s being implemented in Crystal City.
“Premium bus service would build on transit improvements already underway in these corridors. Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City are among the most transit-rich areas of Arlington, with the Pike’s 600 bus trips carrying more than 17,000 passengers each weekday,” the county said in a press release.
The new Pike bus service plan will be included in the county’s state-mandated Transit Development Plan. Arlington will be conducting public outreach on the plan over the next couple of months. It’s expected to be ultimately approved by the County Board in May.
Stations for the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway are taking shape now that officials have overcome the unforeseen construction challenges.
“We had complications during construction that caused delays and threatened to push the project over budget,” Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “But we have made changes, including scope modifications, to ensure that we finish this project within budget and get it done by next spring.”
In a presentation to the County Board earlier this week, construction managers outlined changes to the project scope and design to compensate for these issues.
The station roofs will now be made of a less expensive material that’s also easier to produce than what was originally proposed. County crews will also assume the fabrication and installation of signage and pavement markings at all the stations to cut costs.
However, the stations will all still have higher curbs for easier boarding, lighting and real-time arrival information.
The transitway is a joint project between Arlington and Alexandria to complement the Metrorail system. Arlington’s portion of the project includes seven stations, 0.75 miles of new, transit-only roadway, and 1.5 miles of dedicated transit lanes on existing streets.
The transitway runs in a loop around Crystal City, running from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street and back to Crystal Drive.
Once open, vehicles and other traffic will be restricted from the dedicated transit lanes between 6-9 a.m. and 3:30-7 p.m., three and a half total hours less than first proposed. During these hours, vehicles cannot use the lanes to bypass traffic or to travel through an intersection and cannot obstruct the transitway buses.
Weekly construction updates will be published online throughout the winter. Transitway project managers will also work with Metro representatives to select the initial opening date.
Some Crystal City residents say they’re fed up with nighttime paving on Crystal Drive that they claim has kept them from sleeping.
Roadwork on Crystal Drive should end tonight, which is ahead of schedule, said county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter, adding that the original timeframe had paving and milling continuing for several weeks.
“We apologize for the inconvenience, but this is important work that needs to get done. The end result will be a smooth, durable pavement that all roadway users will enjoy,” Baxter said.
Crystal Drive was on the county’s schedule for paving this year, and it needed to be completed so the county could finish the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway. Milling began last Friday, Oct. 9 at 9 a.m., but the majority of the paving was done at night in order to reduce traffic disruptions during the work day, she said.
“Milling tends to be noisier, which is why we scheduled it during the day to reduce the impacts in residential areas,” Baxter said. “The majority of paving, however, is taking place at night between 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to minimize traffic impacts, maximize pedestrian safety and to expedite the work.”
Some Crystal City residents claimed that the paving noise was loud enough to keep them awake throughout the night, taking to Twitter to voice their frustrations.
— lindsaykat (@lindsaykat) October 14, 2015
— i fly dca (@flyidca) October 12, 2015
The noise was loud enough to be heard through earbuds, said one resident who asked that we redact his name after the publication of this article.
“Why would the County approve night time road work along a road with residential buildings with hundreds of residents? Even with ear plugs, it was extremely difficult to sleep, and I’m sure other residents along Crystal Drive had a difficult time as well,” the resident said.
While the county tried to minimize the disruptions to the flow of traffic, the resident said in an email that the road conditions were hazardous to drivers and pedestrians due to “an unmarked work zone (no cones, no police, no barriers, nadda).”
“On Saturday, with no Arlington County police officers present and no workers directing traffic, pedestrians and vehicles engaged in a game of Frogger — dodging workers, raised manhole covers and work vehicles and equipment on the unmarked road,” he said. “Throughout the day, there were a few near misses as work vehicles moved about and backed up in and around passing cars and crossing pedestrians.”
Arlington warned people living in Crystal Drive residences that there would be nighttime roadwork, Baxter said.
“We sent out notifications through the Crystal City-Pentagon City e-newsletter, the Crystal City Civic Association and BID, as well as to contacts at residential and office buildings,” she said. “In all of our communication, we shared that nighttime work should be expected.”
Construction on the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway will continue through the fall after being delayed by construction conflicts.
“Unforeseen utility conflicts, poor soil conditions and underground obstructions slowed work at several station locations,” the county said on the project’s website.
Arlington County is currently working with contractors to set a new completion date for the project, said county spokesman Eric Balliet, adding that the county will update the community once a schedule has been set.
The county is also holding a public meeting next week to give an update on transitway. The meeting on Oct. 8 will be held at the Residence Inn (2800 S. Potomac Avenue) from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Currently, the county is working on new transitway lanes and on three of the new stations, Balliet said. Crystal Drive, S. Clark Street and S. Bell Street are affected by the road construction, he added.
“New dedicated transit lanes in Potomac Yard are nearing completion,” Balliet said. “Traffic signs and station signage are being installed, and we’ve started testing LED signs and other technologies that will support the transitway. Our contractor recently resumed construction at several station locations where utility conflicts, poor soils and underground obstructions had slowed work.”
Once completed, the Crystal City Potomac Yard transitway will provide better bus service along the Route 1 corridor, especially during rush hour, the county said.
“The new 4.5-mile Transitway between the Crystal City and Braddock Road Metrorail stations will provide faster, more reliable bus service along the congested Route 1 corridor, with amenities designed to attract new riders,” the county said.
The transitway project broke ground in July 2014 and was originally slated to take 10 months.
Photo via Arlington County
Update on 2/21/15 — This project has been approved. See the county press release here.
Millions of dollars in construction work to improve the flow of traffic near the Crystal City Metro Station could begin in a matter of months.
The Arlington County Board will vote at its meeting tomorrow to award a $2.7 million contract for construction on S. Bell Street and 18th Street. The work would include building four bus bays on 18th Street S. under Jefferson-Davis Highway and converting S. Bell Street to a two-way road between 15th and 18th Streets.
The project was originally split in two — the bus bays and surrounding street improvements and converting Bell Street to a two-way road — but the county decided to consolidate to reduce construction impacts and improve coordination, according to the staff report.
The bays allow buses and shuttles to park at an angle along the street, as opposed to stacking parallel to the curb and clogging traffic.
“Construction of the transit and street improvements are important for improving safety and traffic flow in the area, as well as supporting the Crystal City Sector Plan and the [Crystal City-Potomac Yard] Transitway,” the staff report states.
If approved, construction is slated to begin in April and take about 12 months. The contract includes a 15 percent contingency — 5 percent higher than standard because of unknown complications that could come from digging up the street.
According to county Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet, the new bus bays are needed for hotel and employer shuttles that drop off around the Metro station. The Transitway, when fully realized, will turn northbound Crystal Drive into a dedicated bus lane during rush hour. Those shuttles currently stop and drop off passengers on Crystal Drive, and they will be temporarily moved during construction.
One lane of travel each way along 18th Street S. will remain open during construction. The contractor that won the contract, Ardent Company, submitted a $2.3 million bid, more than $800,000 less expensive than the second-place bidder in a nine-bid race. The county determined Ardent to be a responsible bidder.
In addition to the bus bays and S. Bell Street work, the construction will add to the area:
- A median under Jefferson-Davis Highway, to prevent what the county calls “prevalent” jaywalking near where the bus bays will be placed;
- Bus shelters and benches at each of the four sawtooth bays;
- Sidewalk improvements on both sides of 18th Street S.;
- Replacing the asphalt roadway with concrete to withstand increase stress from bus traffic; and
- Reconfiguring the S. Bell Street and 18th Street intersection to improve safety and circulation
New Details About 2012 Murder — New details have been revealed about the 2012 murder of Old Glebe resident Mack Wood, Sr. Three men, including Wood’s son, have been convicted of the murder. Mack Wood, Jr., who’s now serving life in prison, reportedly hired two men to kill his 87-year-old, terminally ill father to get an inheritance from his multimillion dollar estate. [Washington Post]
Crystal City Transitway Construction Continues — Construction on the new Crystal City transitway is proceeding as planned. The transitway was expected to eventually serve a Crystal City streetcar line. Now that the streetcar project has been cancelled, it will only serve buses. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlingtonians Satisfied With Their Commute — Arlington residents are more satisfied with their commute to work than those who live in the outer suburbs, according to recently-released survey results. Some 72 percent of Arlington residents said in a survey that they’re satisfied with their commute. The average Arlington resident’s commute is 28 minutes. [InsideNova]
Dems in Disarray Since Streetcar Decision? — Democratic political blog Blue Virginia says that the Arlington County Board’s decision to cancel the Arlington streetcar project has harmed both the county and the Arlington County Democratic Committee. The committee could be spiraling toward “dysfunction and division,” the blog suggests. Meanwhile, there are rumblings that County Board member Mary Hynes may not run for reelection next year, and that Walter Tejada may face a primary challenge. [Blue Virginia, InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Officials from Arlington County and Alexandria gathered near Potomac Yard this morning to break ground on the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line.
The 4.5-mile Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, when it’s completed, will connect the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to the Pentagon City Metro station with a dedicated bus lane. The bus route, which WMATA is calling Metroway, will open Aug. 24 and run from Braddock Road to the Crystal City Metro at first.
“Unless you invest in growth for the future, all you have is memories of the past,” Rep. Jim Moran said. “Many other communities across the country are not growing, yet Arlington and Alexandria are growing. The principal reason is they’re willing to invest in infrastructure for the future.”
The dedicated lanes, already under construction in Alexandria, were approved for a $10.2 million construction contract in February and are expected to be completed by 2015. The right-of-way in which the buses will operate is planned to eventually turn into the Crystal City streetcar system, which will connect to the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar. The streetcar’s two opponents on the Arlington County Board, Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, attended the groundbreaking and Vihstadt passed out press releases elucidating his support for the transitway, but not the streetcar.
“Even the county’s own press release on the new Crystal City Transitway says it will ease congestion and support both redevelopment and high-density growth,” Garvey said in the release. “This is exactly what we have been saying BRT can do and this is why we don’t need an expensive streetcar. We appreciate the validation of BRT and look forward to watching how it performs.”
Alexandria has not yet committed to building a streetcar system to connect to the Crystal City project — something Arlington officials say the city is “open to” — but the transitway is seen as a piece to connect the two communities even further.
“I think it makes amenities on both sides of the [boundary] line available to people on both sides,” County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said. “Our communities are good friends and our borders are kind of invisible. This just knits this place into a much more cohesive place over time.”
The construction is expected to take about 10 months. When completed, the bus will operate in dedicated lanes near Potomac Yard, with stops on Crystal Drive, S. Bell Street, Clark Street, 15th Street, 20th Street and 26th Street. During morning and evening rush hours, the buses will use a dedicated lane south on S. Bell and Clark Streets and north on Crystal Drive, replacing an existing traffic lane. The lane will be open to normal traffic during other times.
The groundbreaking ceremony was put on brief hold in the middle when one of the attendees suffered an apparent seizure. Arlington County medics responded and the individual was transported to a nearby hospital.
Crystal City Business Improvement District President/CEO Angela Fox said the transitway is key for Crystal City in that it’s simply another layer of accessibility for its residents and workers.
“I think one of the most amazing aspects of Crystal City, which we’ve built our marketing and integrity around, is how accessible Crystal City is,” Fox said. “The transitway is just one more step to ensure Crystal City is competitive as we reach the next step. We support any and all things that make transit easier for Crystal City.”
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) The bus line that will eventually run on dedicated lanes in Crystal City and along Route 1 to Alexandria is expected to open to riders later this summer.
WMATA announced today that the partial bus rapid transit line will launch Aug. 24 and will be called “Metroway,” instead of the given 9X route designation that had been previously planned. The dedicated transit lane is the first of its kind in the D.C. area.
The route will go between the Crystal City and Braddock Road Metro stations at first, but WMATA is planning to expand service to the Pentagon City station by 2015. By that time, Arlington expects to finish construction on the dedicated bus lanes it has approved for the northbound route on Crystal Drive and the southbound route along S. Bell and Clark Streets.
A portion of Alexandria’s section of the Metroway route will have dedicated bus lanes when it opens, from Potomac Avenue to E. Glebe Road. There will also be expanded weekend and late night service, WMATA says. Buses will run every six minutes between Crystal City Metro and S. Glebe Road during rush hour, every 12 minutes during weekday off-peak hours and every 20 minutes over the weekend.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Alexandria on the region’s first dedicated transitway — using separated lanes to encourage travelers up and down the Route 1 corridor to choose transit rather than their cars,” Arlington County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said in WMATA’s press release. “We’re proud to be working the kinks out now so that the region’s Priority Bus Corridor Network can be smoothly implemented over the next 15 years.”
Buses along the line will be new, and painted with the “Metroway” branding “that differentiates it from other transit service,” WMATA said in its release. By 2015, WMATA also plans to have off-board fare collection, real-time bus displays, all-door boarding and “traffic signal optimization” to ensure the buses run on time along the route.
The route starting in August will include the following stations:
- Braddock Rd Metro
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Potomac Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Swann Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- S. Glebe Road
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 23rd & Crystal Drive
- 18th & Crystal Drive
- Crystal City Metro
- Crystal City Metro
- 23rd & S. Clark Street
- 26th & S. Clark Street
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- S. Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Swann Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Potomac Avenue
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Braddock Rd Metro
Images courtesy WMATA
The construction is part of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway Project, a project that, when completed, will see a bus rapid transit system connect from Crystal City and Pentagon City down to the Braddock Road Metrorail Station in Alexandria.
The project’s construction is expected to start this spring and last for 10 months. Alexandria’s portion of the Transitway is already under construction, according to county staff. In Arlington, the bus will operate in dedicated lanes near Potomac Yard, with stops on Crystal Drive, S. Bell Street, Clark Street, 15th Street, 20th Street and 26th Street.
During morning and evening rush hours, the buses — which will be a new 9X Metrobus route — will use a dedicated lane south on S. Bell and Clark Streets and north on Crystal Drive, replacing an existing traffic lane. The lane will be open to normal traffic during other times.
A little more than $1 million of the project’s funds will come from county funds and bonds, while the rest will come from state and federal transit grants, according to the county’s staff report. The project is designed to support the redevelopment of Potomac Yard and provide another transit option for commuters and residents of the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor.
Last year, Metro announced that the Transitway would be WMATA’s first BRT service. The dedicated lanes are expected to expedite travel times and keep buses running on a more reliable schedule.